The growing pains of Tumblr, the coolest blogging platform on the block

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Tumblr may well be the coolest blogging platform out there, but users’ patience is being tested with a seemingly constant string of problems.

The latest came this weekend, when an error caused the site to reveal some users’ passwords. As usual, Tumblr issued humble apologies, explaining that the problem was, in this case, due to human error:

“We’re triple checking everything and bringing in outside auditors to confirm, but we have no reason to believe that anything was compromised,” Tumblr said, assuring that no data was lost. “The fact that this occurred at all is still unacceptable, and we’ll be seriously evaluating and adjusting our processes to ensure an error like this can never happen again. Please let us know if you have absolutely any questions.”

Outages

It should be reassuring, this, but the online chatter suggests people are not quite convinced the powers that be at Tumblr has everything under control. While downtime at the site tends to only last a few minutes at a time, it is a weekly occurrence.

Users are still licking their wounds following what has become known as the Great 2010 Tumblr Outage. Last December the site was down for 24 hours – although it felt like much longer. The problem was caused by scheduled maintenance that affected a vital database cluster, and users took to Twitter to wail about the loss of their beloved blog site.

Social aspect
But despite the grumblings, hardly anyone is threatening to leave Tumblr. The reason for this is the social network aspect of the site: while some use it as a regular blog platform, many others use it as a social site. You can follow people on Tumblr like you do on Twitter or Facebook, and you get their blog posts as a feed on your ‘dashboard’ news stream. There you can ‘like’ posts, comment on them or send people questions. Not to mention re-blogging, which is part of why Tumblr functions as a scrapbook for a lot of people. You can set up a dedicated Tumblr to Marilyn Monroe, cats in boxes or anything you want, and people can contribute to it like a fan-site, for instance.

That is the other excellent thing about Tumblr – it is incredibly easy to use. Anyone who’s ever set up a blog on WordPress can testify to how Tumblr has completely changed the game in terms of ease of posting. While the flexibility is a tad less than more complex sites like WordPress, it takes five minutes, not an hour, to learn the ropes of Tumblr. Furthermore, Tumblr also beats WordPress and Blogspot, the other key blog platform, hands down in terms of design; there are hundreds of very neat, free layouts to choose from on Tumblr.

Keeping up with the growth
So it seems Tumblr users all agree on one thing: it’s amazing when it works, but with each problem that comes along, we fall out of love just a little bit more. Although we know this could still be down to growing pains – Tumblr has grown by leaps and bounds in its four years of existence, now hosting 15 million blogs. There are over 500 million site views per month, and as of March the site gets 2 million new posts a day, and 15,000 new users sign up every day.

Tumblr is now scurrying to keep up with this growth, having recently moved into new offices and is hiring more staff. Last November the site raised over $25 million in new funding, and was at the time valued at $135 million – despite having no revenues. But with 1,500% growth in page views since last year, investors are confident in figuring out how to generate cash, be it through premium features, subscriptions or business partnerships. But start with getting rid of those outages, will you Tumblr, and all will be well.

ShinyJess

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